Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe

Colombo: Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Friday met with ambassadors of India, Japan, the US and China, and discussed the formation of an international forum for financial assistance to the debt-ridden island nation engulfed in the worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948.

Wickremesinghe, 73, was sworn-in as Sri Lanka’s 26th prime minister on Thursday to stabilise the country’s ailing economy and end the political turmoil.

PM Ranil Wickremesinghe met Ambassadors of Japan, USA, China & Indian HC today and discussed forming an international forum for financial assistance to SL. The Japanese Ambassador to leave for Japan tomorrow to discuss SL situation – PM Media, Sri Lankan news website Hiru News English said in a tweet.

Indian High Commissioner Gopal Baglay on Friday became the first foreign envoy to call on Wickremesinghe and discussed with him the current situation in the country.

Wickremesinghe has said he is looking forward to closer ties with India during his term while thanking India for its economic assistance to the country.

India has committed more than USD 3 billion to debt-ridden Sri Lanka in loans, credit lines and credit swaps since January this year.

India’s economic assistance package since January had kept Sri Lanka afloat in its worst economic crisis since independence. New Delhi provided credit lines for the purchase of fuel and essentials as Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves depleted.

India on Thursday said it was looking forward to working with the new Sri Lankan government formed in accordance with the democratic processes, asserting that New Delhi’s commitment to the people of the island nation will continue.

The United National Party (UNP) leader took over as the prime minister as Sri Lanka was without a government since Monday when President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as the prime minister after violence erupted following an attack on the anti-government protesters by his supporters.

The attack triggered widespread violence against Rajapaksa loyalists, leaving nine people dead and wounding over 200 others.

Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since gaining independence from Britain in 1948. The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.

The crisis has provoked widespread protests calling for political reform and the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

On April 1, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa imposed a state of emergency, lifting it five days later. The government reimposed a state of emergency on May 6 after police fired teargas and arrested students protesting near parliament, which was adjourned until May 17.

Although the protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful, the police fatally shot a protester on April 19, and on several occasions have used teargas and water cannons against protesters. The authorities have made numerous arrests and repeatedly imposed curfews.

The political crisis was triggered in late March when people hurt by long hours of power cuts and essential shortages took to the streets demanding the resignation of the government.

Also read: Pakistan’s forex reserves plunge to lowest level since Dec 2019: Report

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